The Arizona Wildcats are successfully through the alphabet soup portion of their schedule.
The Wildcats easily beat UTSA 38-13 Saturday night in front of 41,661 fans at Arizona Stadium and sit at 3-0 heading into Pac-12 play in two weeks at Washington.
The wins have come over NAU, UNLV and UTSA but the Wildcats are perfect nonetheless.
“The schedule is what it is,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. “But we go out there and there’s a lot of young guys playing for us. We’re breaking in a new quarterback. You have to play the games. The lines have blurred between the so-called ‘majors and mid-majors’ and even FBS and FCS schools.
“We had to get ready.”
Added quarterback B.J. Denker: “We can only play who is in front of us. We were expected to win these games, but we still had to come out and play them. Now we’re ready to get into Pac-12 play.”
All things considered, Saturday’s performance may have been the UA’s most complete game of the young season.
Denker finally threw for more than 100 yards—158 to be exact. The senior left-hander from Torrance, Calif., had perhaps his finest performance of 2013.
In the air, Denker was 14 for 21 for 158 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 90 more yards on 10 carries and had two scores on the ground. He also was interception-free for the third straight game.
“I’ll probably have to watch the film to really determine it, but from my view, I thought it was the sharpest he’s been this year,” Rodriguez said of his quarterback. “He’s getting more and more confidence, which he should. B.J. can make all the throws and he can make the plays. He runs it pretty well.”
Denker got the Arizona offense going early. On the team’s first drive of the evening, he was 5 for 6 for 63 yards and found freshman Samajie Grant for a 13-yard touchdown to cap the drive.
The 11-play, 82-yard drive came right after UTSA kicked a field goal on its first drive to hand UA its first deficit of the season.
And once the Wildcats got their lead, they kept on increasing it.
After a Jourdon Grandon interception later in the first quarter, Denker scrambled and then took off for a 35-yard touchdown to make it 14-3.
The two teams traded field goals and then Ka’Deem Carey started to roll.
Playing a full game for the first time this season, Carey scored two touchdowns. The first touchdown came from 4 yards early in the second quarter to make it 24-6.
After Denker scored on a 1-yard rush, Carey reached paydirt from 7 yards early in the fourth quarter for the UA’s final score of the game. His touchdown made it 38-6 and UTSA added a touchdown later in the quarter to get it to 38-13.
Carey finished with 128 yards on 27 carries.
The junior has now rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his last six games and 10 of the last 11.
“I think all of our guys run hard, but Ka’Deem Carey may run hungrier than any running back in college football,” Rodriguez said. “There are a lot of good ones, but you really have to tackle Ka’Deem. He just has a gift and a knack to fight and fight until you bring him to the ground.”
Defensively, the Wildcats were active and aggressive again.
The UA forced multiple turnovers — as it did in its first two wins.
UTSA quarterback Eric Soza threw it a lot, but wasn’t all that productive. He finished 30 of 46 for 277 yards with no touchdowns to go with one interception.
On top of Grandon’s pick, defensive end Reggie Gilbert forced a fumble on a sack that linebacker Jake Fischer recovered.
The UA has now given up 13 points or fewer in each of its first three games. The Wildcats did that just once — in a 56-0 win over South Carolina State—last season.
“Our defense has eyes for the ball this year and we’ve been flying around, making plays and if we can keep that up, it will help out our offense a lot,” senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson said. “We’re giving more effort (than last season) and we’re trying to make every play that comes our way. We’ve been working real hard.”
The UA will now get a week to rest before heading to Washington on Sept. 28.
“The bye week is going to be huge for us,” Denker said. “We need to get some rest and make sure we clean some things up before we start conference play.”